2021 USTFCCCA National High School T&F Coaches of the Year

Every champion wins. That’s a given.

How said champion emerges victorious is the key.

Both the Summer Creek (Texas) High School boys and the Union Catholic (N.J.) Regional High School girls captured state championships in outdoor track & field during the 2021 academic year – but took different routes along the way. It’s due to the resilience they showed throughout the season and that eventual title-winning success that led to their respective coaches – Shelton Ervin and Mike McCabe – being named the USTFCCCA National Boys and Girls High School Track & Field Coaches of the Year Presented by the United States Marine Corps.

TRACK & FIELD COACHES OF THE YEAR HISTORY

YEAR
BOYS WINNER
GIRLS WINNER
STATES
2020
Devon Hind
Hoover (Ala.) HS
Paul Scruggs
Panther Creek (N.C.) HS
Not Awarded
2019
Jason Roach
Pickerington Central (Ohio) HS
June Villers
DeSoto (Texas) HS
2018
Tom Loy
East Canton (Ohio) HS
Alex Armenteros
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.)
2017
Juris Green
The Woodlands HS (Texas)
Jesse Griffin
Lee’s Summit West (Mo.)
2016
Pete Boudreaux
Catholic HS (Louisiana)
Jeff Carpenter
Bishop Kelly HS (Idaho)
2015
Aaron Berndt
Wayzata (Minn.) HS
Carmen Jackson
Miami (Fla.)
Northwestern HS
2014
Michael Fields
Hinds AHS (Mississippi)
Dave Turnbull
Summit (Ore.) HS

Ervin is the third coach from Texas to be named National High School Track & Field Coach of the Year (June Villers, 2019; Juris Green, 2017); McCabe is the first from New Jersey – and the Mid-Atlantic – to earn the prestigious honor. Both will be feted in December at the USTFCCCA Convention in Orlando, Florida, which will be held at the Grande Lakes Resort.

Nobody could slow down Union Catholic once it reached the postseason.

After a dominant victory at the Union County Championships, where the Vikings scored 164 points – 100 more than the runner-up – McCabe’s squad turned its attention to the NJSIAA Groups Non-Public A Championships. Union Catholic has a demonstrated history of stepping up when it matters, taking home each of the previous five team titles awarded at the meet.

“We’ve been so successful for a while that we instill a mentality in our team that, ‘Everybody is coming for us. You have to bring your ‘A’ game, because everybody else will be,” McCabe said. “Our girls buy in each year, because they want to continue the run and the tradition that we’ve built here over the years.”

The Vikings left no doubt in 2021, as McCabe told NJ.com that “We wanted to come out and lay it down this spring.” It’s safe to say Union Catholic did exactly that, scoring 189 points – 127 more than the runner-up – behind five individual event titles, a complete sweep of the relays and 22 additional top-six finishes. In fact, the Vikings placed in every single event offered.

“We’ve had incredible teams over the years – 2015 comes to mind, when we started this little run, because we had Sydney McLaughlin and our 4×400 went 3:35 – but this one stands out because of how much depth we had across all event areas,” said McCabe, who enters his 16th year of coaching at Union Catholic in 2021-22. “How many coaches can say they had athletes score in every single event of a state meet? That’s unheard of. I still can’t wrap my head around it.”

What Summer Creek did to win its second state title in program history – first in Texas’ largest division (Class 6A) – wasn’t unprecedented, but it was certainly unconventional.

Ervin’s Bulldogs entered the UIL State Track & Field Championships in Austin with just five entries: 800 meters, 110-meter hurdles, high jump, discus and 4×400 relay (Summer Creek might have had a few more, if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t shifted some of its top athletes’ focus). All things considered, just having one relay isn’t normally a recipe for success at the state level in Texas, especially in Class 6A. The UIL scoring system gives double points in relay events (20, 16, 12, 8, etc.), so teams that qualify multiple strong relays often top the podium.

Summer Creek got the most out of its scoring chances, with three event crowns – 110-meter hurdles, discus, high jump – and a runner-up effort in the 800. That gave the Bulldogs 38 points going into the final event of the meet, an event in which they’d need to finish fifth or better to win the title outright. They took second in 3:15.59 and gave Ervin, who has been at the school since it opened in 2009, his second state title (Summer Creek also won in 2013).

“I think we showed the rest of the state that you don’t have to do it the normal way,” Ervin said. “That relay did help, but it wasn’t the only reason we won. I’m fired up because all three of my assistant coaches were able to directly coach a state champion in their event areas this year.”

And despite the trials and tribulations of the past two years, Ervin’s squad held true to its principles.

“I preach ‘Control the controllables,’” Ervin said. “We had a lot of kids who quit on us during the pandemic. We had individuals who decided track & field just wasn’t for them. We lost a full week during the season due to a deep freeze down here in the Houston area. We fought through so much and sort of had to reinvent ourselves on the fly, but I am beyond proud of my athletes and coaching staff for seeing this thing through. Ultimately, they did it for their community, because we are proud to be from here.”